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by Heddy Honigmann
First Run Icarus Films, New York, USA, 2007
DVD/VHS, 95 mins., color
Sales, $440; rental/VHS: $150
Distributor’s website: http://www.frif.com.

Reviewed by Rob Harle (Australia)


Forever is a gentle, poignant film. It runs for 95 minutes, which is pretty much a full-length feature. After the first five minutes, I found myself wondering how it would be possible to sustain the viewer’s interest for this length of time. After all, cemeteries are not normally places of dynamic action or breathtaking scenery.

To my amazement the 95 minutes just flew by. Père- Lachaise (Cimetière du Père-Lachaise) situated on Boulevarde de Ménilmontant at just over 48 hectares (118 acres) is the largest cemetery in Paris and is one of the most visited cemeteries in the world. Hundreds of thousands of visitors each year come to pay their respects, be enchanted by the romantic ambience that the French create so well, and to gain inspiration from the graves and lives of some of the greats of art and literature. Proust, Apollinaire, Modigliani and Chopin lie beside relatively unknown individuals, some whose lives we’re tragically cut short, their brilliance as artists and poets only hinted at by the inscriptions on their decaying graves.

The film has English subtitles, which are easily readable, and has both English and French commentary. The cinematography of the film is unremarkable, and the action slow and meandering. This gives the film an unhurried, peaceful, almost soothing affect on the viewer. Heddy Honigmann has cleverly used this low impact approach to create a film which is both delightful and memorable. The film is about a celebration of lives and life, not about a morbid or fearful obsession with death. The persons buried in Père- Lachaise may not be physically here to communicate with us, but their works are as alive and influential as if they were. From the comments of the numerous visitors, from all nationalities, it seems the creative works of the more famous personalities are greater now than when they were alive.

Modigliani was a great inspiration for me personally, particularly with my early sculpture. I was quite moved to see Modigliani’s grave and listen to the guide’s commentary. Modigliani died, sadly too young. The day after his funeral his lover, muse and mother of his children, Jeanne Hébuterne threw herself out of their fifth floor apartment window as she could not bear to go on living without him. She died together with their third, yet unborn child.

One scene I found quite remarkable was that of young South Korean man, with little spoken English and even less French, who had come to pay tribute at the grave of Marcel Proust. Proust was his favourite author and he found in his work, as of course many others have, great inspiration and intellectual satisfaction. The Korean bought a little offering of food for Proust and placed it gently on the grave. He explained haltingly that Proust had given him "food for his mind so he wanted to repay him for this".

Many more scenes like the above mentioned are woven throughout the film but I will not spoil the film by describing anymore. This film is the antithesis of the Hollywood special effects, block buster, shoot-em-up. Perhaps that is why it is so memorable and will appeal to all those interested in culture, the arts and literature. And for those of us that still believe, in spite of postmodernism’s assertion to the contrary, that individuals have and continue to author great, distinctive works of art.



Updated 1st October 2007

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